Monday, July 31, 2017

The Innkeeper's Sister - Romance Review

The Innkeeper's Sister (A Honey Ridge Novel) by Linda Goodnight - Amazon

Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Grayson Blake always has a purpose and never a moment to lose. He's come home to Honey Ridge to convert a historic gristmill into a restaurant, but his plans crumble like Tennessee clay when the excavation of a skeleton unearths a Civil War mystery and leads him back to a beautiful and familiar stranger.
Once a ballet dancer, now co-owner of the Peach Orchard Inn, Valery Carter harbors pain as deep as the secrets buried beneath the mill. A bright facade can't erase her regrets any more than a glass of bourbon can restore what she's lost. But spending time with Grayson offers Valery a chance to let go of her past and imagine a happier future. And with the discovery of hidden messages in aged sheet music, both their hearts begin to open. Bound by attraction, and compelled to resolve an old crime that links the inn and the mill, Grayson and Valery encounter a song of hurt, truth, and hope.

Genre: Romance

Why I Picked This Book: I really loved the previous book from this author and wanted to spend more time in Honey Ridge and at the Peach Orchard Inn.

My Impression: This wasn't the easiest read for me.  There's such pain and loss shown by 2 mothers - 1 modern day, 1 in the 1860s - and my heart hurt for them.  The author makes the emotions so real without seeming overwrought or melodramatic.  It's interesting seeing that while the circumstances of the mothers are so different that the grief is the same.    It was so beautifully done that while it was difficult for me to read it added heart and depth to the characters.

Grayson and Valery are both interesting characters.  Grayson has always been the more serious quiet brother compared to his more adventurous outgoing brother Devlin.  I did really enjoy the brother relationship.  Either could have resented the other but they didn't and they worked together incredibly well.  Valery's relationship with her family is a little more complicated.  It's clear early on that they don't have much faith in her ability to be reliable or serious but it wasn't clear for a long time as to why exactly that is and honestly I thought that her family - especially her mother - wasn't being fair to her or considering all the good she had done.  Her past actions clearly still haunt Valery and it seems like her mother holds a grudge for something that doesn't really make sense.  The guilt Valery isn't the most logical emotion but I did understand why she felt that way and it was easy to see how she had drifted into more self-destructive behavior.  

I loved watching Grayson and Valery start to develop a relationship.  They were so good for each other though they both have a hard time admitting that they need anyone.  As well, I was captivated by the historical story line.  Typically when an author has 2 timelines going I greatly prefer one to the other.  This was not the case here and I was completely caught up in both story lines and connected with all the characters.  This is the 3rd in the Honey Ridge series but this is one you could jump in anywhere.  I've read the 2nd and now the 3rd and loved them both and never felt that I had any problems understanding what was going on or just who everyone was.

If you love contemporary fiction that focuses on emotional connections and isn't afraid to tackle some very serious issues this is a series and a book that you must not miss.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I really enjoyed this one and can't wait to read more from this author.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would.  While it's billed as a romance to me it falls more under the Women's fiction heading and I think most readers of either genre would really enjoy this one.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

This Week in Reading - July 30

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

Sound of Fear by Marta Perry - I read an earlier book in this mystery with a bit of romance series and really loved it so I'm excited to try this one about a woman trying to discover the truth about her past (NetGalley)

Death at the Emerald by R.J. Koreto - I haven't heard much about this series though the detective's name (Lady Frances Ffolkes) does sound familiar.  Regardless, this historical mystery into a 30 year old missing persons case sounds like a mystery I just can't resist!  (NetGalley)

Cold as Ice by Julie Mulhern - This is the newest in one of my favorite cozy mystery series!  I didn't even look at the blurb.  As soon as I saw the author's name I just clicked request.  I can't wait to read it!  (NetGalley)

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain - I haven't had much luck with this author in the past but the blurb on this one really caught my eye.  The main character works in a polio ward (it's set in the 1940s) and I just recently had a discussion with my Grandmother about polio and the devastation it inflicted on the community so I'm curious to see this from a fictional angle.  (Publisher)


Reading:  The Escape by Mary Balogh and Shadow Girl by Gerry Schmitt

Listening:  I'm still listening to podcasts but I'm on the wait list of A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas which I should be getting soon.

Watching:  I've been on a bit of a movie watching binge while I'm trying to clear off some of the huge amount of movies I've recorded but never watched.  The bulk of which are Hallmark movies - I can't resist their mysteries - but there are quite a few regular movies as well.  I've watched Finding Vivian Meir which was good and I'm a big fan of The Garage Sale Mysteries on Hallmark.  J and I have also started watching Shetland on Netflix and so far are really liking it!

Off the Blog:

So the big news is we got a kitten!  The Tornado has been wanting a kitten for ages and I've been taking allergy shots for 2 months now so I'm as good as I'm going to be.  We finally decided that this weekend was the weekend and headed over to a local rescue group.  Now the Tornado has been obsessed with the idea of getting an orange kitten for months and what is the first kitten we see?  A tiny little orange kitten!  We looked at a number of others and I really wanted to take them all home with me but I held strong!  In the end we ended up getting the orange kitten we saw first.  He's a total sweetheart and very social.  Apparently he had a bit of a rough start.  He was found at about 4 weeks old and had extensive damage to all 4 pads on his feet.  However, he's healing up nicely and is really the most social snuggly cat I've ever come across (he was bottle fed for awhile so I'm wondering if that has something to do with).  Because we just got him yesterday (Saturday) we're still all getting to know each other and the name is being hotly debated.  I'm sure there will be a lot more kitten talk next week!  Until then here's two of the many (many) pictures I've taken so far.

On the way home 
Checking out a stack of Agatha Christies

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  The Innkeeper's Sister - Fiction Review
Tuesday:  The Playboy Prince and the Nanny - Contemporary Romance Review
Wednesday:  Whispering in French - Fiction Blog Tour Review
Thursday:  TBD
Friday:  Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday:  TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

52 Pins in 52 Weeks - July Edition

So I started this feature because I'm a huge fan of Pinterest but there were so many pins getting neglected and I wanted to fix that.  I figured this was a way to pick some of those neglected pins and make myself try them.  And it worked... for awhile.

I'm not sure what exactly is going on but I've definitely fallen behind.  I've been out of town a decent amount this year dealing with my grandfather's health situation and then J and I have been traveling more as well since we've gotten the RV which has definitely cut into my pinning time.  We've also had some health issues pop up here in the last couple of months that have really made me want to try and cook a lot healthier which is making all the rich yummy food I love to pin more of a rare splurge than a regular thing.  And really I'm just so tired right now and am just not feeling like taking the time to really try new things.

So I'm taking a short break from this one to hopefully get stuff sorted out and some pins actually completed.  I'm also thinking of making this quarterly instead of monthly but haven't really decided anything yet.   I'll post an update and hopefully some completed pins on Saturday, September 30.

 In the meantime you can follow me on Pinterest or check out my 52 Pins in 52 Weeks  board and my 52 Pins in 52 Weeks Results board.

On a side note the one pin I've completed this month is this one from and is basically putting an upside down tomato cage over your squash plant and using that to control it and make it easier to see the squash.  For the most part this works.  It definitely kept the bulk of the plant from sprawling and kept the bottom of the stems more visible so I don't suddenly discover squash the size of baseball bats.  However, it stops working when you realize you're one tomato cage short for your actual tomato plants and have to pull it up and put it over the tomatoes to keep that plant from spilling into the yard where the lawn people will probably run over it and that will be end of your tomatoes.

What pins have you done this month?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday Linkups - Daring to Dream

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Do you read tie-in novels to movies or television series?  If so, which ones?

My Answer:
I don't but not on purpose.  I just haven't seen any that really caught my attention though the Veronica Mars books look pretty cute.  If I saw any tie-ins that appealed to me I'd definitely snap them up!

This week's book is Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts.  This is a reread for me and while it isn't the strongest Roberts book (or trilogy for that matter) it is a lot of fun.   Like most Nora Roberts trilogies the real star of the show is the friendship between the women involved.  In this book all three women grew up together despite being from very different circumstances and are still the best of friends.

The Beginning:
When she was eighteen, Margo knew exactly what she wanted.  She had wanted the same at twelve.  Everything.

My Thoughts:
It's hard to like Margo based on this opening and really the beginning of the book but that definitely improved as the book went on!

The 56:
Absolutely.  I have to admit your mother was the best at it.  According to Mrs. Williamson, I was too impatient, and Kate worried too much about getting it just right, but your mom had a feel.  She was the champ jelly tart maker.

My Thoughts:
This is Margo talking to the daughter of one of her best friends.  I'm definitely like Kate in the pastry crimping world but now I want a jelly tart!

So what do you think?  Any books you know aren't the best but you still love reading?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dark Rites - Romantic Suspense Review

Dark Rites (Krewe of Hunters #22) by Heather Graham

Rating: Very Good
Source:  NetGalley

Description: A series of bizarre assaults is mystifying Boston police: an unknown attacker is viciously beating random strangers and leaving a note quoting an old warning about witchcraft. History professor Alex Maple was one of the victims, and now he's gone missing. Vickie Preston is certain that someone has taken her friend for malicious purposes. She's having blood-drenched visions that seem to be staining her waking life, and the escalating attacks suggest that a dangerous cult is at work behind the scenes—a cult so powerful that its members would rather die than be apprehended.
Vickie is grateful to have Special Agent Griffin Pryce and the FBI's elite Krewe of Hunters on her side. Vickie and Griffin are finding their way in an increasingly passionate relationship, and he's keeping her safe and sane amid the disturbing investigation. The search for Alex will take them deep into the wilderness of Massachusetts on the trail of a serial killer, where an ancient evil is waking.

Genre:  Romantic Suspense 

Why I Picked This Book:  I can't resist a Heather Graham - especially when it's a Krewe of Hunters book and I really liked Vickie and Griffin in the last book.

My Impression:  I really love the Krewe of Hunters series.  The stories are always so creepy and interesting and I love how they books are only loosely connected so you don't have to keep up with all 21 previous books!  This one is a little different as the main couple here is the same main couple in the previous book Dying Breath but I really liked them and am looking forward to seeing more of their relationship develop.

This one felt a lot darker to me than the previous book.  Graham takes kind of a fade to black approach to violence and gore - we know someone got attacked, we know there's blood but it's not really talked about in detail - but the level of fear seemed higher.  I actually started to read this when I was home by myself one night and after page 3 had to put it aside.  And there was one incident when I was reading in bed in the dark (reading on my Kindle) and my 7 year old got right next to the bed without me hearing and took about 10 years off my life.

As usual there's a lot of history woven into the mystery of the random street attacks and the disappearance of Vickie's friend Alex.  I liked that this wasn't just a satanic cult but one that is based off historical events.  I think that kept it from getting too dark though it didn't diminish the creep factor!  I also really enjoyed seeing more of Devin and Rocky who were from my favorite Krewe book The Hexed.  However, no worries if you haven't read that one as you don't need to know there backstory to enjoy this one.  While not absolutely mandatory it would be best to read Dying Breath before this one so you can get to know Vickie and Griffin a bit better.

This series always delivers on serious creep and a good bit of history which makes for an entertaining read that never fails to pull me in.   If you like romantic suspense heavy on the suspense with a dash of paranormal this is one not to miss!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I already have the next book on my Kindle ready to go and am looking forward to one day tackling all the previous books I've yet to get around to reading.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you like romantic suspense this series is a great one though I do recommend you read Dying Breath first.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Reader Problems Book Tag

I saw this Reader Problems Book Tag on Quinn's Book Nook and just couldn't resist it!

1.  You have 20,000 books on your TBR, how in the world do you decide what to read next?

I'm not much of a mood reader but I'm a big list person.  I typically rely on publication dates for choosing a book but if I get a free spot I refer to my lists.  I typically make a few lists of books I want to read during the year or next books in a series and go from that.  Occasionally a mood read book will sneak in but not very often.

2.  You're halfway through a book and you're just not loving it.  Do you put it down or are you committed?  

I'm not good at DNFing though I've been trying to get better at it for non-review books.  For a review book I'll keep going (though there may be some skimming) but the last couple of non-review books I did manage to set aside and walk away!

3.  The end of the year is coming and your behind on your reading challenge, do you try to catch up and if so how?
The only challenge that I really keep up with is the Goodreads Challenge.  I've been known to finish a book at 11:55PM on New Year's Eve to make that goal!  I love all the other challenges out there but I'm not great about keeping up with them.

4.  The cover of a series you love do not match, how do you cope?

This doesn't really bother me.  If given the option I'll probably buy the one that matches but if I can't find one or the other cover is much cheaper I'll go with that.  Probably leftover from mostly going to used bookstores for years.

5.  Everyone and their mother loves a book that you do not.  Who do you bond with over your shared feelings?

I hate it when this happens though thankfully it doesn't happen very often!  Usually I complain to my husband.  We don't really have the same reading taste but he's usually pretty sympathetic.

6.  You're reading a book in public and you're about to start crying.  How do you deal?

Most of my reading in public is done in the car waiting to pick up my son so I do have a little bit of privacy when this happens.  I've been known to wear sunglasses on very cloudy days!  If it looks like it's going to turn into full on ugly cry I'll find a different book or check my email or do something on my phone until the moment passes.

7.  The sequel to a book you loved just came out but you've forgotten a lot of what happens.  Are you going to reread it?

I would mean to reread it but it probably won't happen and it's pretty likely that I'd put the sequel aside until I could reread the first book and than neither would get read.

8.  You do not want anyone to borrow your books, how do you politely say no when someone asks?

The good thing about being an introvert is that I don't know all that many people who want to borrow my books!  I'm okay with giving paperbacks to people if I've already read them but if it's a book that I'm really not comfortable letting out of my sight I'll typically just explain the sentimental attachment and it isn't a problem.

9.  You have picked up and put down 5 books in the last month.  How do you get over this reading slump?

I hate when this happens!  I have 2 methods that typically work pretty well.  The first is to reread an old favorite and the 2nd is to go through my list of review books or my stacks of books and read the first one that really catches my attention.

10.  There are so many books coming out that you are dying to read, how many do you end up buying?

I don't really buy a huge number of books.  A lot of what I read are review books and then I'm a big fan of my local library.  If I'm going to buy a book it's typically a cookbook though there are probably 10 or 12 books over the course of the year that I just can't resist buying!

11.  After you purchase all these books that you're dying to read how long do they sit on your shelves before you get to them?

And this is why I don't buy books.  I have books on my shelf that I just had to have bought brand new and in hardcover that are still untouched.  Several I bought before the Tornado was born - he's 7.  Every once in awhile I'll pick up a book immediately but it's definitely the exception.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ten Books On My Keeper Shelf

In the book I talked about yesterday - Howards End is on the Landing - Susan Hill makes a list of 40 essential books from among her shelves.  This got me thinking.  I love to reread though I'm not able to fit it in as often as I'd like but I haven't really given much thought to my essential books.  What books could I reread over and over?  What books have earned their place on my Keeper Shelf?  Here's 10 that I think have a permanent place on mine!

1.  Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright - Words cannot describe how much I love this book and this author.  Her stories are just so fun full of adventure and kids I would have wanted to be friends with as a kid.  This book involves a lake community that's all abandoned except for one house and there is much adventure and just lots of fun.

2.  Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie - It's hard not to make this entire list Agatha Christie but I stayed strong and resisted though of course I had to add 1 (okay maybe 2) titles to the list.  This one is probably my absolute favorite.  While it was one of her last books published she actually wrote it during WWII and put it away for later use.  The mystery is an old one and how it comes to light is pretty fascinating.  Plus, it's really Jane Marple at her best.

3.  The Case of William Smith by Patricia Wentworth - Wentworth is a classic mystery author that I really think deserves a lot more attention.  This book is one of my favorites.  There's a soldier with amnesia, a little bit of romance, and quite a lot of mystery though it's low on the murder scale.  Miss Silver makes an appearance but isn't a major character but we see plenty of DI Abbott which makes up for it.

4.  The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery - This is one of my favorite Montgomery books and one I can read over and over.  When we first meet Valancey she's so unhappy and just adrift and it's such fun to watch her decide to do what she wants for once.

5.  The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom - This is much deeper and darker than the rest of the books on this list but it's one I try to reread every few years.  This memoir of ten Boom's experience in a concentration camp is a challenging read but is also everything good in humanity against the worst.  It puts things in perspective for me and makes me remember to appreciate the small things.

6.  The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn - My favorite of the Bridgerton series.  Anthony and Kate are just so perfect together even though they don't know it at first and I love the relationship between Kate and Edwina.

7.  The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas - This is my favorite book by Kleypas and one of the few books that I've really believed a villain was redeemed.  Plus Evie and Sebastian are just adorable together.

8.  The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin - While this one wasn't one of those books that really pulled me in and carried me away it did remind me of some very important lessons.  It's so easy to get caught up in day to day stuff that I forget to do things that make me happy or that I enjoy and when I'm happy I have more to give to those around me.

9.  The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn - I really enjoyed this book and how inspiring it was to really get back to the fundamentals of cooking.  The recipes included are absolutely amazing as well!  Her Alfredo sauce and chocolate frosting recipes are both must haves.

10. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie - I had to include another Agatha Christie and it was so tough picking just one.  I finally went with this one.  I do love it but what really earned this title its place on the list is the intricate plot and amazing detail.  I think I notice something new every time I read it.

What books have earned a book on your Keeper Shelf?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Howards End is on the Landing - Bookish Nonfiction Review

Howards End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading From Home by Susan Hill

Rating: Good
Source: Library

Description:  Early one autumn afternoon in pursuit of an elusive book on her shelves, Susan Hill encountered dozens of others that she had never read, or forgotten she owned, or wanted to read for a second time. The discovery inspired her to embark on a year-long voyage through her books, forsaking new purchases in order to get to know her own collection again.

A book which is left on a shelf for a decade is a dead thing, but it is also a chrysalis, packed with the potential to burst into new life. Wandering through her house that day, Hill's eyes were opened to how much of that life was stored in her home, neglected for years. Howard's End is on the Landing charts the journey of one of the nation's most accomplished authors as she revisits the conversations, libraries and bookshelves of the past that have informed a lifetime of reading and writing.

Genre: Nonfiction - Bookish

Why I Picked This Book:  It's a book about books which I can never resist and it's about reading from home which I really want to do but so far am terrible at.

My Impression:  I love books about books but so often I feel like they're lacking just a little something.  Maybe the tone is more academic than I'm looking for?  Maybe they don't talk about the books that really resonate with me?  I'm not sure what the issue is but this book had that same feel.  There wasn't that click of familiarity that I really wanted.

That being said I did still really enjoy this book.  Most of the books Hill discusses are either completely unknown to me or books I haven't read and frankly don't really want to read  (Ulysses was high on that list) but I did enjoy following along as she went through the process of wandering through her shelves and talking about what she had and what she wanted to read.  I love the idea of just reading from your own shelves for a whole year (not that I see myself doing that anytime soon) and making a list of the books that mean the most to each individual reader.  I'm not sure that Hill really inspired me to go read any of the books she mentions but she definitely inspired me to go dig around in my own shelves and get to know my collections.   There are a number of stories about people she has known in the book world and while there is a LOT of name dropping most of it is quite delightful.  I especially loved her story about Roald Dahl.

This book reads like a series of connected essays.  It's more meandering than focused which very much gave me a sense of the author.   While I didn't find the connection that I was really looking for it was a book I was reluctant to put down every night and I could visualize Hill's wandering house with all the bookshelves tucked into nooks and crannies which added an extra element of enjoyment.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Probably.  This is so different from her other books which are fiction and a number seem to be ghost stories that I'm not sure I really got a feel of her writing style from this book.

Would I Recommend this Book?   I would if you enjoy books about books.  It didn't blow me away but it was an enjoyable read.  I think it'd be a perfect sick in bed book or a comfort reading book.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

This Week in Reading - July 23

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha - I just couldn't resist the title!  This memoir about a couple in financial disaster who end up in a 100 year old mice infested snake ridden cabin sounded interesting.  (NetGalley)

The Playboy Prince and the Nanny by Donna Alward - It's been awhile since I read a romance with royalty and I love Donna Alward so this sounded like a fun light read I couldn't resist.  (Publisher)

Trace by Archer Mayor - I used to love this very un-cozy mystery series about a detective in Vermont so I'm really looking forward to continuing it. (NetGalley)

The Witches' Tree by M.C. Beaton - I can't resist an Agatha Raisin book so of course I had to request this one!  (NetGalley)

Need You Now by Emma Douglas - The daughter of a rock star, a famous tennis player looking to retire, and a music festival sounded like a fun read.  (Publisher)


Reading:  Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and Dark Rites by Heather Graham

Listening:  Podcasts - especially The Vanished and Again With This but looking to starting an audio book in the next week or two.  I have a pretty long wish list so it'll depend what's available at the library.

Watching:  I watched several movies with my Grandfather while I was visiting them.  We watched several silent movies which were really fun.  I don't think I've ever seen a whole silent film so I'm glad I did.  Hot Water with Harold Lloyd was my favorite I think.

Off the Blog:

I had a great visit with my grandparents this week.  The Tornado had a great time too and our trip coincided with a visit from my Aunt who lives in Pennsylvania which was a nice treat.  I'm glad to be home and getting to sleep in my own bed though!

This is the Tornado's last week of summer as he will start school the week after.  We've had a good summer but wow it went by fast!  We found out the name of his teacher and I'm very excited.  If I could have picked a teacher for him it would have been this one so I'm hoping for a great year.

This week will be all about catching up on pretty much all fronts - home, blog, and reading - and getting in some last minute relaxing.  I'm not looking forward to getting back to early morning wakeups!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Howards End is on the Landing - Bookish Nonfiction Review
Tuesday:  TBD
Wednesday:  TBD
Thursday:  TBD
Friday:  Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday:  52 Pins in 52 Weeks - July Edition

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Hospitality and Homicide + Killer Party

Description:  A visit to the serene coastal town of South Cove, California, could make anybody feel refreshed and inspired. But as Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books, and More—discovers, some folks won’t live to tell about it . . .

Mystery author Nathan Pike checked into South Cove Bed & Breakfast to compose a compelling novel, not commit murder. But things get real when a rival B&B owner ends up exactly like the victim in his draft—undeniably dead. As Nathan prepares to complete his magnum opus behind bars, Jill’s the only one who can prove his innocence and deconstruct the plot of a twisted killer!

My Thoughts:  I always enjoy visiting Jill, Greg and the rest of the group in South Cove.  It was fun to see how things were progressing for Amy, Toby, Josh and all the other characters I really feel like I've come to know during the previous books.  While the mystery itself was interesting and the wrap up made since the investigation itself was pretty passive.  Jill wasn't really involved until the last third and prior to that most of her involvement was getting updates from Toby or Greg as to what was going on.  I was much more interested in what was happening with Esmeralda and the missing boy.  What really had me the most interested is the character development that made up such a large part of the book.  Big changes are coming to Jill and Greg's relationship as well as at Coffee, Books, and More and I can't wait to see what happens next.  While this was a great read for fans of the series it's probably not a great one to start with.  Rating:  Good

Blurb:  For a gang of old college buddies, the quaint resort town of South Cove, California, is the perfect spot for a no-holds-barred bachelor party. But for Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books and More—this stag party is going to be murder . . 
After a few months of living with her boyfriend Greg, Jill is still getting used to sharing such close quarters, but she’s got no hesitation about joining him for a weekend at South Cove’s most luxurious resort. While Greg and his college pals celebrate their buddy’s upcoming wedding, Jill intends to pamper herself in style. But when the groom is found floating facedown in the pool, Jill must find the killer fast, or she might not have a boyfriend to come home to any more

My Thoughts:  Jill has always been the main character in this series so I really enjoyed getting to know Greg a little better through his college friends.  Jill is definitely an active participant in the investigation and with Greg sidelined it's fun to see her take a more active role in the investigation.  The mystery is fun and I enjoyed seeing a new group of people in addition to the South Cove regulars.  I enjoyed seeing more of Derek who arrived last book and am hoping he becomes a series regular.  This is a delightful cozy series with entertaining mysteries and a real community feel.  Each new book feels like visiting friends.  Now I just have to wait for the next book to find out just what is going on with Aunr Jackie.  Rating: Very Good

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Linkups: Garden Spells

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question
Have you ever read a book or books you would consider "toxic" because of the effect it had on you?  If so which one?

My Answer:
I can't think of a specific book but I have stopped reading books where children are abused or killed especially when it is told from the POV of the parent or the killer.  There are a lot of really well reviewed books that center around this but I've finally realized it's just not something I want in my head.

This week's book is Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen.  I read Peach Keeper 2 summers ago and absolutely loved it and have been wanting to go back and read this one for quite some time so I made it my assigned reading for July.  Allen's books are just perfect summer reading.  They're interesting and light reading but you can just feel the North Carolina summers seeping through the pages.

The Beginning:
Every smiley moon, without fail, Claire dreamed of her childhood.

My Thoughts:
This beginning could really go other way.  Either she loved her childhood and misses it or it was terrible and gives her nightmares.  It could go either way.

The 56:
Sydney's heart lodged in her throat, and she stumbled to the kitchen table and sat?  She'd left her daughter alone for twenty-six hours?

My Thoughts:
This is another one that I don't really know what to make of.  How did she not know she'd left her daughter alone for that long?  She seems horrified by the thought so I have some questions.  Can't wait to get to this point.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Room for Doubt - Cozy Mystery Review

Room for Doubt (A Carol Childs Mystery) by Nancy Cole Silverman

Rating:  Good
Source:  Author

Description:  When radio reporter Carol Childs is called to a crime scene in the Hollywood Hills at five thirty in the morning, she’s convinced it must be a publicity stunt to promote a new movie. That is, until she sees the body hanging from the center of the Hollywood sign. The police are quick to rule it a suicide, but something doesn’t add up for Carol. Particularly after a mysterious caller named Mustang Sally confesses to the murder on the air and threatens to kill again.

With the help of an incorrigible PI, her best friend, and a kooky psychic, Carol is drawn into the world of contract killers and women scorned. As she races to find the real killer, she finds herself faced with a decision that will challenge everything she thought she knew.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I read the previous book in the series and really enjoyed it so I couldn't resist this one!  Especially since it involves a body hanging on the Hollywood sign.

My Impression:  This is the 2nd book in the Carol Childs series I've read and reading this one really made me wonder why I haven't gone back and read the first two.  This is a solid mystery series with an interesting main character and exciting mysteries.  Book 3 was all about a jewel theft ring and in the first few pages in Room for Doubt we find a body hanging from the Hollywood sign. Discovering how it got there is quite the journey with lots of twists and turns to keep Carol on her toes and it all wraps up with a satisfying conclusion.

What really makes this series special is Carol herself.  She's just such a grown up and is so easy to identify with it's impossible not to like her.  She's a single mother to a teenage boy and the challenges of that come through in a very real way without taking center stage.  She's also trying to adapt to her job in the constantly changing world of journalism where she has to juggle her professionalism with the demands of her boss - the very young Tyler who doesn't quite buy into work-life balance.  Carol feels like such a real person and a person I could be friends with.

Silverman really makes use of the Los Angeles setting.  This is not a book that feels like it could be taking place in anywhere USA.  The landmark mentions are frequent without seeming unnecessary and just the whole pacing of the story itself feels very LA.  If you are looking for a fun mystery series with a likable real main character, a slew of entertaining side characters, and a well thought out and fast paced plot this is a series not to miss!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I've really enjoyed the 2 books I've read and look forward to reading more.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Definitely!  If you enjoy mysteries that are cozy but not cutesy this is a great series.  I think fans of Julie Mulhern and Susan M. Boyer would enjoy this series.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dark Saturday - Blog Tour Mystery Review

About Dark Saturday

• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (July 11, 2017)
  LOUISE PENNY says Nicci French's books are "fabulous." JOSEPH FINDER says they're "in the rich vein of Kate Atkinson." And TAMI HOAG calls them "truly unique."

  Enter the world of NICCI FRENCH with Dark Saturday, an electrifying, sophisticated psychological thriller about past crimes and present dangers, featuring an unforgettable protagonist...

 A decade ago, 18-year-old Hannah Docherty was arrested for the shocking murder of her family. It was an open-and-shut case, and Hannah has been incarcerated in a secure psychiatric hospital ever since. When psychotherapist Frieda Klein is asked to meet Hannah and give her assessment, she reluctantly agrees. But what she finds horrifies her. Hannah has become a tragic figure, old before her time. And Frieda is haunted by the idea that Hannah might be as much of a victim as her family — that she might, in fact, be innocent. As Hannah's case takes hold of her, Frieda begins to realize that she's up against someone who will go to any lengths to keep the truth from surfacing — even kill again. Utterly compelling and enthralling, Dark Saturday speeds readers down a twisting trail of secrets, suspense, and murder.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Thoughts:  Nicci French has been an author I've been wanting to read for years but just never managed to make happen.  I was a little worried starting this one that I wouldn't understand what was going on since this is such an established series.  It ended up not being an issue at all.  While it's clear that quite a lot has happened in previous books I was immediately pulled into this one both with the investigation and Frieda's personal life.  The chapters are short and the pace is intense as the investigation into what really happened to Hannah Docherty's family really begins to take shape.  This is a dark story with some pretty dysfunctional characters (including Frieda herself) but at the same time I never felt that it became unbearably grim or unnecessarily violent.  I liked the glimpses into Frieda's psychotherapist work and her own therapy.  It humanized her in a way that I think the book really needed.  I really enjoyed this though I did have to read a chapter of something light and happy before going to bed!  I will be searching for the earlier books in this series and looking forward to the next Dr. Frieda Klein book!  Rating:  Very Good

About Nicci French

Nicci French is the pseudonym of English wife-and-husband team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. Their acclaimed novels of psychological suspense have sold more than 8 million copies around the world. Connect with the authors on their Facebook page.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

My Favorite TV Shows

I love television!  I'm not sure if it's a reaction to my childhood where I was very rarely allowed to watch TV or if it's just my thing but whatever the reason I'm a big TV fan.  My taste is fairly broad.  I love documentaries and sitcoms and crime shows.  My main rule is that the show not have too big of a story arc or too much character development or you get what I like to call ER syndrome which is basically when fairly normal characters end up being completely insane by the end of the 10th season.  I never quite forgave that show for what it did to perfectly nice Dr. Green.  But that's another story.  So in no particular order here are some of my favorite shows:

1.  The Great British Bake-Off - For some reason PBS in the states calls it The Great British Baking Show but they're the same.  I love the scenery and how nice everyone is.  I love when they come out with some baked creation that I've never even heard of.  I also want to become Mary Berry and be BFFs with Mel and Sue.  I got to know Sue in a show called Supersizers Go (that's on Hulu if you want to watch it - you should it's great) which mixes history and food and is in equal parts fascinating and hilarious.  And I don't want to talk about the fact that the show is getting all changed up to have a more "modern" tone. I'm staying in complete denial.

2.  Antiques Roadshow - I love antiques and history and seeing how much random people are willing to pay for stuff.  Plus, it's always fun to see the reactions when something they didn't think was very important ends up with a big appraisal.

3.  Doctor Who - Back in the 80s PBS showed some of the episodes of the Tom Baker Doctor Who and my Dad loved them so I of course watched it with him.  I wasn't very old and mostly thought it was just weird.  This wasn't helped by the fact that most of the props and special effects seemed to have been put together with things the production crew found lying around.  But my overwhelming opinion was positive and so when I heard the series had been rebooted and discovered that it was on Netflix I thought I'd give it a try and am hooked!  I'm really loving the season that just ended and hate that Capaldi is leaving.  He really seems to have found his version of the Doctor and I love his relationship with Bill.

4.  Catfish - I love this show a ridiculous amount even though the commercials on MTV make me feel very old (I'm very grateful I can fast forward through them).  I love seeing if they are who they say they are and following the investigation as Nev and Max track down who the person has really been talking too.

5.  Dancing with the Stars - This is kind of a guilty pleasure but I love it.  The pretty costumes, the themes, getting to know the celebrities.  There's nothing I don't like.

6.  Elementary -  I really like Sherlock too but the fact they do 3 episodes every 2 years makes me kind of sulky about them so I'm sticking with Elementary.  I love Joan and Sherlock's relationship and I love Detective Bell..  The mysteries are always so twisty and intriguing so it makes me a happy watcher.

7.  NCIS - NCIS is an example of GOOD character development.  McGee has changed so much since he first started on the show but it's more that he's grown up and then gone crazy which gets this show big points.  Plus, there's Gibbs.  How can anyone not love Gibbs?

8.  The Middle - This show is almost a little too true to real life sometimes which makes it all the funnier!

9.  Who Do You Think You Are? - This is my genealogy geek out show.  They've had some really big names and I love finding out the history of regular people all over the world.

10. The Big Bang Theory - I'm always a little nervous when they add characters to a show but Bernadette and Amy have been fantastic additions - especially in the last 2 seasons.  Plus, Bernadette is just amazing.

11. Top Chef - This is probably my favorite cooking show.  I love Padma and Tom and most seasons I really love most of the contestants though every once in awhile the villain does win.  It's fun to see them go through all the different challenges.

12.  Disappeared - This show is on Investigation Discovery and it's one of my favorites.  It focuses on missing people sometimes with a resolution and sometimes without.

I'm linking up with Binge Watchers hosted by Stormi at Books, Movies, Reviews Oh My and Michelle at Because Reading

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ramblings from the Stacks - Book Clubs

Back when the Tornado was little I joined a local mom's group to help him hang out with other toddlers and give me someone to talk to during the day who could actually talk back in full sentences.  It was fun and I made friends with a good number of the other moms.  So when the subject of a Mom's Night Out book club came up I was immediately on board!  People I could talk about books with!  Yes please - sign me up!

The book club started out pretty well.  It was mostly the same 6 or so women with the occasional straggler.  We talked about books some and other stuff and ate and all in all had a good time.  Then the split came.  50 Shades of Grey was picked and there was much outrage amongst the members of the club.  Some of the core members refused to read the book and formed their own club while other members of the group who hadn't joined the book club came to the meeting.  The discussion on 50 Shades was actually pretty entertaining though it wasn't a book I particularly cared for but the split was disastrous to the book club.  It turned out that 2 book clubs could not exist and they both just kind of fizzled away.

Then a year or two later another one started up.  Once again I was all in.  At first it was great.  We read Gone Girl, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey and several other books I really enjoyed.  But this because this was a book club that was associated with a mom's group the people who showed up were different each time and as the months went on less and less people read the book which meant we talked about the book less and less.  Then finally we had an influx of women who only read important books and when someone suggested a romantic suspense as the next month's title and they were horrified and made it very clear that that book was below them.  After that I was pretty much done.  I basically just wanted to go build a fort out of my Nora Roberts' books and binge read.  I decided I was done with book clubs or at least the kind that were made of people who weren't connected by books.

But I realized that I MISSED talking about books.  After I read something I wanted to tell someone what I thought about it and to talk about it.  That's one of the things that led me to book blogging.  I love talking about books.  I love seeing what other people think of books I've loved, or hated, or haven't read yet.

Awhile ago I noticed a flier at the library for 2 book clubs.  One a general fiction club and one a romance club.  I've been keeping an eye on the fliers and each month the books listed are books that interest me.  I'm considering giving book clubs another try.

What do you think?  Have you ever gone to a book club through the library or a bookstore?  Have you ever been in a book club?  What kind and how did it go?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

This Week in Reading - July 16

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris - I was so thrilled last year when I saw the Aurora Teagarden series was coming back and I'm super excited to start this one.  The Aurora Teagarden series is much more of a straight forward mystery than a lot of her other books.  There's not anything paranormal and it's almost (but not quite) a cozy series.  (NetGalley)

Grave Errors by Carol J. Perry - I read the previous book in this cozy mystery series last year and while I don't remember all the details I remember really loving it.  This one takes place right around Halloween and there's creepy cemeteries and all kinds of spooky sounding stuff so I'm really excited.  (NetGalley)


Reading:  Dark Saturday by Nicci French(which I need to finish today!) followed by getting back to No River Too Wide by Emilie Richards and Killer Party by Lynn Cahoon

Listening:  Still podcasts.  I'm listening to the back list of Again With This about Beverly Hill 90210 and I'm dying laughing.  I love the clips and they're really just hilarious.

Watching:  J and I just finished the 2nd season of Fortitude on Amazon Prime.  We really liked it though it was a bit more gory than the first season and the ending wasn't quite as tied up.  Now we just have to wait for season 3!  Also watching The Great British Bake Off and loving it though I hear that there's a cast change up in the most recent season.  We're a few seasons behind in the US so I'm glad I get a little bit longer with Mary, Sue and Mel.

Off the Blog:

The Tornado had his 2nd Space camp this week so he's been super busy.  This one focused on robotics and really loved the topic but I think he'll enjoy next year more when he's in the older group because it's a bit more hands on.

We had a fantastic trip to Chattanooga last week.  It's one of those places that really isn't that far away from us but I always forget about.  It's always crazy what's close to home that we never end up visiting.  The aquarium there has added penguins since my last visit which made me a happy person.  I could watch penguins for hours.  I just love the way they move and interact.

This next week the Tornado and I are heading to south Mississippi to spend the week with my grandparents before school starts.  I saw a list the other day that ranked the states by misery level in the summer and Mississippi ranked as the most miserable - a fact that does not surprise me in the slightest.  I am looking forward to seeing them.  My grandfather is doing really well after his injury and illness but he's still more housebound than he's ever been and can get restless.  

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Ramblings from the Stacks - Book Clubs
Tuesday:  My Favorite TV Shows
Wednesday:  Dark Saturday:  Mystery Review + Blog Tour
Thursday:  Room for Doubt - Cozy Mystery Review
Friday:  Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday:  TBD

Have a great day and happy reading! 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cocoa Beach - Historical Fiction Review

Cocoa Beach: A Novel by Beatriz Williams

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  Burdened by a dark family secret, Virginia Fortescue flees her oppressive home in New York City for the battlefields of World War I France. While an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, she meets a charismatic British army surgeon whose persistent charm opens her heart to the possibility of love. As the war rages, Virginia falls into a passionate affair with the dashing Captain Simon Fitzwilliam, only to discover that his past has its own dark secrets—secrets that will damage their eventual marriage and propel her back across the Atlantic to the sister and father she left behind.
Five years later, in the early days of Prohibition, the newly widowed Virginia Fitzwilliam arrives in the tropical boomtown of Cocoa Beach, Florida, to settle her husband’s estate. Despite the evidence, Virginia does not believe Simon perished in the fire that destroyed the seaside home he built for her and their young daughter. Separated from her husband since the early days of their marriage, the headstrong Virginia plans to uncover the truth, for the sake of the daughter Simon never met.

Simon’s brother and sister welcome her with open arms and introduce her to a dazzling new world of citrus groves, white beaches, bootleggers, and Prohibition agents. But Virginia senses a predatory presence lurking beneath the irresistible, hedonistic surface of this coastal oasis. The more she learns about Simon and his mysterious business interests, the more she fears that the dangers that surrounded Simon now threaten her and their daughter’s life as well.

Genre: Fiction - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:  I've really enjoyed previous books by Williams and this involves family secrets, estates that need to be settled, mysterious deaths and all kinds of things that are essentially my reading catnip.

My Impression:  How did I make it until 2017 without reading a book by Beatriz Williams?  To be fair this is my 3rd book this year so I'm making up for lost time but still!  I think this is my favorite book yet.  The other books I've read are typically set in New York and surrounding areas but the majority of this one is set in south Florida.  But Williams brought hot and humid Florida alive just as vividly as chilly grey Manhattan had appeared in A Certain Age.  

This book feels so much more ominous than the previous books that I've read by her.  Maybe it's the sweltering heat that seems to ooze from the pages that changed the atmosphere but whatever it was I'm not complaining.  I wanted to know what was going on.  What was truth and what wasn't and what exactly happened in France and before the fire.  The bulk of the book is set in 1922 with flashbacks to 1917 where Virginia and Simon meet.   Not everything we learn in 1917 matches up with what's going on in 1922 so I couldn't wait to find out how everything connects and unravels.

I really loved Virginia and I adored her daughter Evelyn.  Virginia is smart and tough.  Her life has been a tough one and she's a survivor, fiercely protective of those she loves.  Evelyn is adorable and gives Virginia a little bit of vulnerability and softness without being too precocious or taking over the book.

One thing I love about Williams' books is that they're all connected in someway.  Virginia plays a tiny part in A Certain Age and the story of her family is a major subject of that book.  While these are completely stand alone books there's an added enjoyment of getting to dig deeper into a character's back story or learn more about side characters with each new book.

While I'm fairly new to Williams' world she has quickly become an auto-buy author for me.  With the mystery, the secrets, and the characters this one might just be my favorite.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I'm looking forward to reading more of Beatriz Williams' books while waiting for the next one to be released!

Would I Recommend this Book?  Absolutely!  Anyone who enjoys a good fiction read with memorable characters would really enjoy this book.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Linkups: Dark Saturday

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question
What is your go-to drink and/or snack while reading?

My Answer:
I'm not a big snacker while reading mostly because I tend to get absorbed in my book and not realize that I'm eating until I've finished off the bag of chips or the cookies or whatever without even realizing it!  I do love a nice cup of tea while reading though!  I'm a big fan of green tea with just a hint of lemon.

This week's book is for a blog tour next week and I'm really enjoying it though it's way darker than my usual reads.  Nicci French is an author I hadn't really come across before I started blogging but I loved the sound of her books and her main character, psychotherapist Frieda Klein.  So of course when I saw Dark Saturday on a list of tours there was no way I could resist!  It's super dark and creepy but so far it's also really good.

The Beginning:
She isn't afraid.  Being stabbed doesn't cause a stabbing pain.  It had felt more like a punch, with an ache flowing through her body in waves, and then her legs had given way and she was on the floor, her knife rattling on the hard surface.

My Thoughts:
See what I mean by dark?  This kind of a flashback so the tone is different from the rest of the book thankfully.  I don't really like the present tense of the opening.

The 56: 
"You were having a panic attack."
"And they've continued."
"Yes.  Attack is the right word for it.  I wake at night and I know it's coming.  It's crouching and it's going to get me."

My Thoughts:
This is a conversation between Frieda and one of her patients.  The description of the panic attack is so vivid I can almost picture something crouching in the corner.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  What are your favorite reading snacks?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bay of Sighs - Paranormal Romance Review

Bay of Sighs (Guardian Trilogy #2) by Nora Roberts

Rating: Good
Source: Library

Description:  Mermaid Annika is from the sea, and it is there she must return after her quest to find the stars. New to this world, her purity and beauty are nothing less than breathtaking, along with her graceful athleticism, as her five new friends discovered when they retrieved the fire star.
Now, through space and time, traveler Sawyer King has brought the guardians to the island of Capri, where the water star is hidden. And as he watches Annika in her element, he finds himself drawn to her joyful spirit. But Sawyer knows that if he allows her into his heart, no compass could ever guide him back to solid ground...

And in the darkness, their enemy broods. She lost one star to the guardians, but there is still time for blood to be spilled—the mermaid’s in the water and the traveler’s on the land. For she has forged a dangerous new weapon. Something deadly and unpredictable. Something human.

Genre:  Romantic Suspense - Paranormal

Why I Picked This Book:

My Impression:  While I really liked Annika in the first book I wasn't sure that I would like having her as the main character.  She's so upbeat and innocent and her joy at the unfamiliar world seemed like they could be a bit much.  Plus, with all that innocence would a romance with her and a human feel sketchy?

While Annika did retain her unicorns and rainbows personality we did get a little more depth to her personality and I really enjoyed learning more about the rules and customs of the mer-people.  She's tougher than she seems but doesn't let that toughness cause her to become cynical.  The romance was what I was most worried about but Roberts did a good job of making it feel like Annika had full agency and was emotionally aware and ready for a physical relationship.   Annika really takes the lead and there are a number of conversations that show that she isn't a child, she's just more open and less complicated about relationships than humans tend to be.

The quest plotline is developing but no real conclusions are reached in this book though progress is made.  This book is a little darker and a little more violent than the previous book though Roberts doesn't get overly graphic.  I really enjoy seeing the 6 work together as a team using all the gifts.  They're not always in agreement but they really do listen to each other.  As well I like the relationships between the men and women who aren't in a romantic relationship.  They feel like real friends and like partners.  I'm glad I waited to read this one until the 3rd book because this book ends just as they're beginning the third part of the quest and I can't wait to dive in!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author:  Absolutely!  Roberts is a go to read for me and while I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as the first one I'm looking forward to seeing how the trilogy ends.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you like romantic suspense with a paranormal edge then this is a great trilogy but read the first book before this one or you'll be totally lost!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Reviews from the Children's Section - Tuesdays at the Castle

One of my favorite genres and one that is the easiest for me to push aside is middle grade fiction. This year to make sure I get a little more children's and young adult fiction I thought I would designate the first Monday of every month Middle Grade Monday.  While a lot of my picks this year are classics I am trying to branch out a little bit and read new or at least recent releases.  This month's book is a newer release that has been on my radar for quite some time and I'm so glad I finally made time to read it!

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George - Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.

My Thoughts:  There are only 2 things I didn't like about this book.  The first is that there is no way that I have found that would enable me to send this book back in time to 9 year old me and the second is that I can't send it back in time to when my girls were 9.  I think all 3 of us at about 9 would have absolutely adored it.  Thankfully it's still a pretty fantastic read for an adult.  This book is absolute magic.  Right from the start I was pulled in and swept away.  Who can resist a magic castle?  Especially one that changes things up when it gets bored and makes its opinions very clearly known about who it likes, who it doesn't, and who it wants to rule? I loved Celie and her siblings, Roth and Lilah.  They didn't always get along perfectly but when they had to they worked together and had each others backs.  This was really a book I didn't want to put down because I really wanted to see what happened next and how it wraps up which is usually not the case for a middle grade fiction.  As a parent I really liked that the kids were problem solvers and aware of the fact that there actions might have consequences for other people (like playing pranks on someone could be taken out on the servants) and tried to minimize that as much as possible.  As well while there are plenty of pretty bad adults here there are adults that can be trusted and are safe to turn to when they really need them.  There are a few moments that could be described as tense and an event that is sad but they are so short lived I don't think this would bother even the most sensitive of readers.

I think this would be a fantastic read for children in 3rd grade or above.  There are some politics and strategy planning that I a younger reader might find slow.  This reads fantastically as an adult read as well.  The characters are fresh, the story is intriguing and a little bit of a nail biter, and did I mention the magic castle?  I'm really excited to discover that there are several more books in the series for me to explore.

Rating:  Loved it!